Peter James Hudson reviews three recent history of slavery and capitalism texts to place them in conversation with radical black scholarship and political thought, past and present:
The American Historical Review and Past & Present have joined forces to publish a joint, virtual special issue reviewing historiographic debates related to slavery and anti-slavery in the Atlantic World.
Echeruo, Michael J. C. “Edward W. Blyden, “The Jewish Question,” and the Diaspora: Theory and Practice.” Journal of Black Studies 40, no. 4 (March 1, 2010): 544-565. http://jbs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/40/4/544.
“Dr. Blyden’s booklet, “The Jewish Question,” has been largely ignored, as it relates not only to the Jewish Question, proper, but also to the question of African American identifications with Africa and the quest to return, in one sense or another, to the “land of their fathers.” This article examines all of these three aspects of Blyden’s work and suggests in what ways the idea of a Diaspora could be understood in theory and in practice, considering Blyden’s attitudes.“
Available via Sage Publications ($$)
Simonsen, Gunvor. “Moving in Circles: African and Black History in the Atlantic World.” Text, November 13, 2007. http://nuevomundo.revues.org/index42303.html.
“The article examines the development of African diaspora history during the last fifty years. It outlines the move from a focus on African survivals to a focus on deep rooted cultural principles and back again to a revived interest in concrete cultural transfers from Africa to the Americas. This circular movement can be explained by a combination of elements characterizing African Atlantic and black Atlantic history. Among them is a lack of attention to questions of periodisation and change. Likewise, it has proven difficult to conceptualize Africa and America at one and the same time as characterized by cultural diversity and variation. Moreover, the field has been haunted by a tendency of moving to easily from descriptive evidence to conclusions about African identity in the Americas. A promising way to overcome these problems, it is suggested, is to develop research that focuses on single individuals and their Atlantic trajectories.”
Available at Nuevo Mundo/Mundos Nuevos.
Compiled by Sherri L. Barnes and hosted by University of California at Santa Barbara Libraries
From the Introduction:
Welcome to Black American Feminisms: A Multidisciplinary Bibliography, an extensive bibliography of black American Feminist thought from across the disciplines. References date back to the nineteenth century when African American women like Maria Stewart, Anna Julia Cooper and Sojourner Truth challenged the conventions and mores of their era to speak publicly against slavery and in support of black women’s rights. These African American women did not refer to themselves as feminists, however, their beliefs and activism ignited a tradition of anti-racist and anti-sexist political movement and thought which now defines black American feminism. Many black American women, inspired by these nineteenth century trailblazers have continued over the years to work toward the eradication of race and gender inequality, among other systems of oppression, which have historically subjugated black American women.
From the antislavery and women’s rights movements of the nineteenth century, continuing through the black and women’s rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, up to today’s contemporary black feminist activism, black American women have sought to have a voice in two centuries of liberation struggles that had silenced or ostracized them. Whether one chooses to use the term black feminism, African American feminism, womanism, or black American feminism, to articulate the complexity of black American women’s demand for social, economic and political equality, understood is the desire for a compatible and progressive vision of social justice based on the historical and ongoing struggles against the race and gender (at least) oppression black American women have experienced at home, at work, in their communities and, moreover, within the dominant culture as a whole.
Contemporary black American feminists have identified the central themes in black feminism as evidenced in over a century of struggle in the U.S. These include: 1) the presentation of an alternative social construct for now and the future based on African American women’s lived experiences 2) a commitment to fighting against race and gender inequality across differences of class, age, sexual orientation, and ethnicity 3) recognition of Black women’s legacy of struggle 4) the promotion of black female empowerment through voice, visibility and self definition, and 5) a belief in the interdependence of thought and action (Collins 1993, 418; Guy-Sheftall 1995; 2). As black women have become cognizant of the multiple systemic forces of oppression, they have pursued collective actions for social change, transforming society and themselves through their own agency and self-determination.
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Timothy Burke offers four ways to think about Africanist historiography:
1) The historiography of Africa is methodologically and/or epistemologically distinctive. Africanists have to think through problems of archival interpretation in creative ways, have to think about the status of oral narrative in new ways, have to grapple with debates about nomothetic and ideographic knowledge in a unique way, have distinctive issues with the validity of comparative or universal history, have to struggle with the “constructedness” of their field of knowledge in special ways.
2) The particular character of colonialism, globalizing capitalism or modern institutions in African history raises a distinctive range of questions for historians and anthropologists which has some comparative significance for understanding colonialism, globalizing capitalism or modernity in general.
3) The marginal or failed position of many African societies within contemporary global systems is a special challenge for many comparative or universal frameworks and requires historical investigation into the roots or causes of this marginality and thus to possible resolutions or addresses to these problems. (Or illuminates the extent to which all modernity is an incipient failure or in a state of unresolvable crisis, in some more pessimistic or critical frameworks.)
4) African societies (or some subset of African societies) have some distinctive material, cultural, philosophical character over their longue duree; studying the colonial era is just a way to focus an exploration of the particular character of African societies as they experienced new pressures from external forces and institutions.